For fans of Paul Verhoeven’s classic sci-fi/action film RoboCop, rebooting that property has always seemed like a fairly ridiculous idea. Nevertheless, that’s exactly what MGM has been attempting to do for the last several years. Now that the studio’s financial woes are finally behind them, they appear determined to revitalize their brand – which means revisiting several of their most revered franchises.
In addition to Bond 23 and The Hobbit, the RoboCop reboot is clearly a priority project for MGM. As recently as last month, visionary filmmaker Darren Aronofsky was reportedly still attached to direct. However, Aronofsky’s already committed to making The Wolverine for 20th Century Fox and it looks like MGM wasn’t interested in waiting for his availability to open up.
According to Deadline, the studio is now in negotiations with award-winning Brazilian filmmaker Jose Padilha to take over directorial duties on the RoboCop reboot. Although his name might not be immediately recognizable to American audiences, his crime thrillers Elite Squad and Elite Squad 2 have been enormously successful in his home country. He also directed the acclaimed documentary Bus 174.
Despite the fact that MGM is anxious to get the RoboCop reboot off the ground, they’re evidently tossing out the previous script by David Self (Road to Perdition, Old Man’s War). Deadline mentions that once Padilha is officially on board, they’ll hire a new writer to work under his supervision.
I’ll be honest – Aronofsky was essentially the only redeeming factor for me with this project. I’ve never liked the idea of rebooting RoboCop and I don’t imagine I ever will. Even still, there was a part of me that was slightly curious to see what Aronofsky’s take on the material would be. Like Verhoeven, he’s an auteur who I’m convinced would have circumvented a lot of people’s expectations.
I know I shouldn’t be entirely pessimistic about Padilha at such an early stage – particularly because the only film of his I’ve seen is Elite Squad 2 (which I did enjoy). However, it’s just impossible for me to dismiss how well the original RoboCop still works – and what an incredible job Verhoeven did of turning that script into a film that was better than it had any right to be.
The tone of RoboCop is so unbelievably pitch-perfect and resonant. It’s a formula I just can’t see being duplicated and I wouldn’t be surprised if the reboot completely dropped the satire and took a more straightforward approach to the story. The problem is, the vastly inferior sequels already showed us how limp the premise can be once that happens.
That’s a large part of why I still love the original film so much – I adore how completely over the top the performances, violence, and production design can get at certain points. Verhoeven expertly inserted this tongue-in-cheek attitude to the proceedings without sacrificing our emotional investment in the title character or downplaying the severity of his plight.
Padhila has a pretty intimidating legacy to live up to. If his deal closes, we’ll see if he’s up to the challenge.
The RoboCop reboot is currently scheduled to hit theaters sometime in 2013.
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